Some substitute teachers say they won't cross picket lines during potential strike

Some substitute teachers say they won't cross picket lines during potential strike »Play Video
Jeff Kipilman has been a substitute teacher for 15 years and says he won't cross the picket line if teachers go on strike.

PORTLAND, Ore. -- As teachers prepare to vote on a strike this week, some substitute teachers are saying they'll refuse to cross the picket lines if the union carries out the first-ever strike in the history of Portland Public Schools.

On Friday, a spokeswoman for PPS told KATU the district will keep schools and classes open if teachers strike by implementing an "emergency plan."

Spokeswoman Christine Miles would not give an on-camera interview, but said in person on Monday afternoon the district will not discuss specifics about its emergency plan until it actually has to implement it.

"We have an emergency plan in place. If and when a strike happens, parents should rest assured that they will be contacted immediately with a plan for their school," said Miles.

Earlier, Miles had said the plan includes calling on substitutes, retirees, recent graduates and previous job applicants to fill in for striking teachers.

"Everyone will be state-qualified," said Miles.

Reaction from substitute teachers on Monday raised questions about how the district will find enough people.

"I've been a substitute teacher for 15 years," said Jeff Kipilman, who gave an interview outside Madison High School during his planning period on Monday. "I would not cross the picket line. I would notify the district that I would not work if teachers strike."

Kipilman, and other PPS substitute teachers, told KATU they would support the union.

Miles declined to provide KATU with the number of substitutes and other replacement teachers on its emergency plan list.

The PPS website claims it has 2,828 teachers and 1,006 substitutes.

On Friday, Miles said substitutes have a "no-strike" clause in their contract and the district would delete the names of substitutes from its database if they held a strike.

Kipilman disputed that, saying substitutes could simply refuse to accept jobs, not hold an actual strike, if the Portland Association of Teachers authorizes a strike for full-time teachers.

Kipilman says he and about three-quarters of the district's substitutes are also PAT members.

"The union called all of the subs about two weeks ago and urged us not to work if they go on strike," he said.

Kipilman estimates he's spoken to about 100 substitutes and claims all of them agreed they would not cross the picket lines.

KATU left voicemails, sent emails and tweeted a question to PPS on Monday asking for a detailed emergency plan and reaction to the latest comments from its substitutes.

PPS responded to a tweet, saying it will contact parents if necessary, but did not reply to a follow-up tweet asking if substitutes are allowed to strike.

Meanwhile, a man named Hugh Gardner contacted KATU offering to work as a substitute during a strike. Gardner says his wife is a retired teacher, and his daughter is qualified in Washington state, and both would by willing to work.

If you are a substitute teacher who is willing to work during a potential strike, we want to hear from you. Send an email to dcassuto@katu.com.